ROCKETLAB cannot assume responsibility, in any manner whatsoever, for the use readers make of the information presented herein or the devices resulting therefrom.

Comments regarding this booklet should be sent to:

Note: The following address has not been verified and may not be current, since it was the address listed in the original text from 1967.
ROCKETLAB Post Office Box 1139 Florence, Oregon 97439

Exhaust plume from small 75-lb thrust water cooled liquidfuel rocket engine. Propellants are gaseous oxygen and methyl alcohol. Official U. S. Navy photograph.

Note: Photograph mentioned was not included in this PDF version due to it’s poor quality (my copy of the book is pretty ragged) and it appears to be the quality of a Xerox copy to start.

Copyright „ 1967 by Leroy J. Krzycki Printed in the United States of America First printing: March 1967
Second printing: March 1971 ISBN 9600-1980-4 PDF version created by Tim Patterson,



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With proper design. fabrication procedures. His normal every day life is. and safe operating procedures for small liquid-fuel rocket engines. The purpose of this publication is to provide the serious amateur builder with design information. 4 . is that the amateur is not accustomed to high pressure devices operating near material temperature limits. and good test equipment operating in a safe manner. When then do so many amateur rocket engines fail or cause injury? The reason.FOREWORD The rocket engine is a relatively simple device in which the propellants are burned and the resulting high pressure gases are expanded through a specially shaped nozzle to produce thrust. usually and simply. the amateur can build small liquid-fuel rocket engines which will have hours of safe operating life. test equipment requirements. careful workmanship. Gas pressurized propellant tanks and simple propellant flow controls make operation of a small liquid-fuel rocket engine about as simple as operating an automobile engine. instead. filled with devices and gadgets operating at low pressures and at low thermal energy levels.

In the combustion chamber the propellants chemically react (burn) to form hot gases which are then accelerated and ejected at high velocity through a nozzle. and the injector. BUILD and TEST SMALL LIQUID-FUEL ROCKTET ENGINES INTRODUCTION A liquid rocket engine employs liquid propellants which are fed under pressure from tanks into a combustion chamber. This is the same phenomenon which pushes a garden hose backward as water squirts from the nozzle or makes a gun recoil when fired. A typical rocket motor consists of the combustion chamber. the nozzle. The thrust force of a rocket motor is the reaction experienced by the motor structure due to the ejection of the high velocity matter.HOW to DESIGN. thereby imparting momentum to the engine. Momentum is the product of mass and velocity. Figure 1 Typical Rocket Motor 5 . as shown in Figure 1. The combustion chamber is where the burning of propellants takes place at high pressure. The propellants usually consist of a liquid oxidizer and a liquid fuel.

Since thrust is the product of mass (the amount of gas flowing through the nozzle) and velocity. Because of the high temperature and heat transfer. Nozzles which perform this seemingly amazing feat are called DeLaval nozzles (after their inventor) and consist of a convergent and divergent section. high temperature gas in the combustion chamber into high velocity gas of lower pressure and temperature.000 feet per second) can be obtained in rocket nozzles. Gas velocities from on to two miles per second (5. the combustion process. The function of the nozzle is to convert the chemicalthermal energy generated in the combustion chamber into kinetic energy. and the high temperature resulting from. a very high gas velocity is desirable. as shown in Figure 2.The chamber must be strong enough to contain the high pressure generated by. The minimum flow area between the convergent and divergent section is called the nozzle throat. high pressure. The nozzle converts the slow moving. the chamber and nozzle are usually cooled. The chamber must also be of sufficient length to ensure complete combustion before the gases enter the nozzle.000 to 12. Figure 2 DeLeval Nozzle 6 .

They give good performance.000° – 3. The nozzle is usually made long enough (or the exit area is great enough) such that the pressure in the combustion chamber is reduced at the nozzle exit to the pressure existing outside the nozzle. the gas temperature at the nozzle exit is still about 3. Gaseous oxygen can be readily and inexpensively obtained in pressurized cylinders in almost any community because of its use in oxy-acetylene welding. however.000° – 6. and their combustion temperature presents an adequate design challenge to the amateur builder. The propellants are used in the Atlas missile and the Saturn space booster. The drop in temperature of the combustion gases flowing through the nozzle is high and can be as much as 2. Since the gases in the combustion chamber may be at 5. In these systems. If the engine is designed for operation at high altitude the exit pressure is less than 14. toxic. The amateur builder of rocket engines on the other hand. ROCKETLAB recommends the use of gaseous oxygen as the oxidizer and a hydrocarbon liquid as the fuel. requires propellants that are readily available. Most of the propellant combinations listed are dangerous. 7 . liquid rather than gaseous oxygen is used as the oxidizer. some of which are tabulated in Table I. Gas pressures are easily regulated with commercial regulators and gas flow rate is easily controlled with commercially available valves.7 pounds per square inch (psi).7 psi. the combustion flame is readily visible. to be detailed later.000° F. the gas (and cylinder) is safe to handle for test stand use.000° F. Based on experience.000° F. reasonably safe and easy to handle. and expensive. If the rocket engine is being fired at sea level this pressure is about 14. PROPELLANT CHOICE Liquid rocket engines can burn a variety of oxidizer and fuel combinations. and inexpensive. With reasonable precautions.The flow area at the end of the divergent section is called the nozzle exit area.

Mixture ratio is defined as the weight flow of oxidizer divider by the weight flow of fuel. that the propellants to be used in amateur liquid-fuel rocket engines are gaseous oxygen and hydrocarbon fuel. The flame temperature of hydrocarbon fuels burned in gaseous oxygen at various combustion chamber pressures is shown in Figure 3 for the stoichiometric mixture ratio. Safety precautions are already known by most responsible individuals due to wide use of the fuels in internal combustion engines for automobiles and power equipment. All subsequent sections of this publication will refer to.Hydrocarbon fuels. are readily available in any community. and assume. or 8 . such as gasoline and alcohol.

” This condition is less severe on the rocket engine than burning at stoichiometric oxygen-rich conditions.Figure 3 Flame temperature versus chamber pressure at stoichiometric mixture ratio When a stoichiometric ratio is achieved just enough oxygen is present to chemically react with all of the fuel. 9 . this is known as burning “off-ratio” or “fuel rich. the highest flame temperature is achieved under these conditions. Figure 4 indicates how the flame temperature varies when combustion chamber pressure is held at a constant value and the mixture ratio is allowed to vary. If a lower flame temperature is desired it is usually better to have more fuel present than oxidizer.

is 244 lb of thrust per 1 lb or propellant burned per second.Figure 4 Flame temperature versus mixture ratio at a constant chamber pressure of 300 psi The thrust developed per pound of total propellant burned per second is known as specific impulse and is defined as: Figure 5 indicates the maximum performance possible from hydrocarbon fuels burned with gaseous oxygen at various chamber pressures with the gas expanded to atmospheric pressure. from figure 5. Therefore 10 . This graph may be used to determine the propellant flow rate required to produce a certain thrust. At these conditions the propellant performance. Suppose you wish to design a rocket engine using gaseous oxygen and gasoline propellants to be burned at a chamber pressure of 200 psi with a thrust of 100 lbs.

Figure 5 Isp performance of hydrocarbon fuels with gaseous oxygen. we have 11 .5. Since the minimum Isp mixture ratio (r) for oxygen and gasoline is 2.

PROPELLANT PROPERTIES The chemical and physical properties of gaseous oxygen. methyl alcohol. and gasoline are given in Table II. 12 .

is the ratio of gas specific heats and is a thermodynamic variable which the reader is encouraged to read about elsewhere (see Bibliography).32 ft-lb/lb° R. Gamma. and M is the molecular weight of the gas. Figure 6 Motor Design Configuration Nozzle The nozzle throat cross-sectional area may be computed if the total propellant flow rate is known and the propellants and operating conditions have been chosen. 13 . R is the universal gas constant equal to 1545. g.DESIGN EQUATIONS The following section will detail simplified equations for the design of small liquid-fuel rocket motors. The nomenclature for the motor design is shown in Figure 6. so that R is about 65 ft-lb/lb° R. The molecular weight of the hot gaseous products of combustion of gaseous oxygen and hydrocarbon fuel is about 24. Gamma is about 1. given by R = R / M.2 for the products of combustion of gaseous oxygen and hydrocarbon fuel. Assuming perfect gas law theory: where R = gas constant.

gc is a constant relating to the earth’s gravitation and is equal to 32. The gas temperature at the nozzle throat is less than in the combustion chamber due to loss of thermal energy in accelerating the gas to local speed of sound (Mach number = 1) at the throat. given by 14 .2 ft/sec/sec. Therefore Tc is the combustion chamber flame temperature in degrees Rankine (°R). For further calculations the reader may consider the following as constants whenever gaseous oxygen and hydrocarbon fuel propellants are used: Tt is the temperature of the gases at the nozzle throat.

This area will then be the nozzle exit area.Pt is gas pressure at the nozzle throat. The pressure of these gases will decrease as energy is used to accelerate the gas and we must now find that area of the nozzle where the gas pressure is equal to atmospheric pressure. The mach number at the nozzle exit is given by a perfect gas law expansion expression Pc is the pressure in the combustion chamber and Patm is atmospheric pressure. The pressure at the nozzle throat is less than in the combustion chamber due to acceleration of the gas to the local speed of sound (Mach number =1) at the throat. Mach number is the ratio of the gas velocity to the local speed of sound. or 14.7 psi. 15 . Therefore The hot gases must now be expanded in the diverging section of the nozzle to obtain maximum thrust.

The temperature ratio between the chamber gases and those at the nozzle exit is given by The nozzle throat area diameter is given by 16 . we can eliminate the parameters for future design use.The nozzle exit area corresponding to the exit Mach number resulting from the choice of chamber pressure is given by Since g is fixed at 1.2 for gaseous oxygen and hydrocarbon propellant products. Therefore. the results are tabulated in Table III.

The combustion chamber cross-sectional area is given by The chamber volume is given by 17 .and the exit diameter is given by A good value for the nozzle convergence half-angle b (see Figure 3) is 60°. which is given by Where Vc is the chamber volume (including the converging section of the nozzle). L* is really a substitute for determining the chamber residence time of the reacting propellants. the combustion chamber cross-sectional area should be at least three time the nozzle throat area. a. The nozzle divergence half-angle. For gaseous oxygen/hydrocarbon fuels. L*. should be no greater than 15° to prevent nozzle internal flow losses. To reduce losses due to flow velocity of gases within the chamber. in cubic inches. an L* of 50 to 100 inches is appropriate. and At is the nozzle throat area (in2). Combustion Chamber A parameter describing the chamber volume required for complete combustion is the characteristic chamber length.

and tw is the thickness of the cylinder wall. actually the thickness should be somewhat greater to allow for welding. and stress concentration. A typical material for small water-cooled combustion chambers is copper.000 psi. the chamber wall thickness must be sufficient for welding or brazing purposes. for which the allowable working stress is about 8. so that The chamber diameter for small combustion chambers (thrust levels less than 75 pounds) should be three to five times the nozzle throat diameter so the injector will have useable face area. Since the chamber will be a cylindrical shell.For small combustion chambers the convergent volume is about 1/10 the volume of the cylindrical portion of the chamber. buckling. the working stress in the wall is given by Where P is the pressure in the combustion chamber (neglecting the effect of coolant pressure on the outside of the shell). Chamber Wall Thickness The combustion chamber must be able to withstand the internal pressure of the hot combustion gases. therefore. D is the mean diameter of the cylinder. The combustion chamber must also be physically attached to the cooling jacket and. The thickness of the chamber wall and nozzle are usually equal. The thickness of the combustion chamber wall is therefore given by This is the minimum thickness. 18 .

The combustion chamber forms the inner wall and another concentric but larger cylinder provides the outer wall. therefore. for static tests and for amateur operation. the value of tw will be the minimum thickness since welding factors and design considerations (such as O-ring grooves. The energy release per unit chamber volume of a rocket engine is very large. It is apparent. Some important empirical design guidelines are available. which. However. Here again.Equation (22) can also be used to calculate the wall thickness of the water cooling jacket. The injector is usually self-cooled by the incoming flow of propellants. The combustion chamber and nozzle definitely require cooling. in the case of flight engines is usually one of the propellants. etc. water is the only coolant recommended. and can be 250 times that of a good steam boiler or five times that of a gas turbine combustion chamber. A cooling jacket permits the circulation of a coolant.) will usually require walls thicker than those indication by the stress equation. The complete heat transfer design of a rocket engine is extremely complex and is usually beyond the capabilities of most amateur builders. therefore. The space between the walls serves as the coolant passage. and are listed below: 19 . The cooling jacket consists of an inner and outer wall. The heat transfer rate of a rocket engine is usually 20 to 200 times that of a good boiler. however. that the cooling of a rocket engine is a difficult and exacting task. dependent on the jacket material chosen. A new allowable stress value must be used in Equation (22). Engine Cooling The amateur should not consider building un-cooled rocket engines since they can operate for only a short time and their design requires a thorough knowledge of heat and mass transfer engineering. the most difficult to cool. The nozzle throat region usually has the highest heat transfer intensity and is. Cooled rocket motors have provision for cooling some or all metal parts coming into contact with the hot combustion gases.

melt. Water flow velocity in the cooling jacket should be 20 to 50 feet per second. 4. 2.1. 5. Extend the water cooling jacket beyond the face of the injector. Heat Transfer The largest part of the heat transferred from the hot chamber gases to the chamber walls is by convection. The consequent failure is caused because of the sharp temperature rise in the wall caused by excessive heat transfer to the boiling coolant. Water flow rate should be high enough so that boiling does not occur. The chamber walls have to be kept at a temperature such that the wall material strength is adequate to prevent failure. 3. Material failure is usually caused by either raising the wall temperature on the gas side so as to weaken. 20 . The amount of heat transferred by conduction is small and the amount transferred by radiation is usually less than 25% of the total. 6. Use water as the coolant. A steady flow of cooling water is essential. or damage the wall material or by raising the wall temperature on the liquid coolant side so as to vaporize the liquid next to the wall. Use copper for the combustion chamber and nozzle walls.

°F temperature of coolant entering jacket. 21 . The wall material must be capable of high heat transfer rates (which means good thermal conductivity) yet. chemical erosion. Material requirements are critical only in those parts which come into direct contact with propellant gases. Btu/lb°F temperature of coolant leaving jacket. The water must have an adequate heat capacity to prevent boiling of the water at any point in the cooling jacket. in2 coolant flow rate. The total heat transferred from the chamber to the cooling water is given by where Q q A ww cp T Ti = = = = = = = total heat transferred. Materials The combustion chamber and nozzle walls have to withstand relatively high temperature. and high stress. Btu/sec average heat transfer rate of chamber. Btu/in2-sec heat transfer area.In water-cooled chambers the transferred heat is absorbed by the water. have adequate strength to withstand the chamber combustion pressure. °F The use of this equation will be illustrated in the section Example Design Calculation. high gas velocity. Other motor components can be made of conventional materials. at the same time. lb/sec specific heat of coolant.

4. Shoddy or careless workmanship. final burn-through and engine destruction are extremely rapid. or poor welds. the use of more commonplace (and much less expensive!) metals and fabrication techniques is quite possible. 2. from copper. The cooling jacket and those injector parts not in contact with the hot propellant gases. 3. Experience with a wide variety of rocket engine designs leads to the following recommendations for amateur rocket engines: 1. Those injector parts in contact with the hot chamber gases should also be machined from copper. Since almost all amateur rocket firing should be conducted on a static test stand. The combustion chamber and nozzle should be machined in one piece. can easily cause engine failure. Exotic metals and difficult fabrication techniques are used in today’s space and missile rocket engines. which is then blown away exposing new metal to the hot gases. Even a small pinhole in the chamber wall will almost immediately (within one second) open into a large hole because of the hot chamber gases (4000-6000°F) will oxidize or melt the adjacent metal. providing a lightweight structure absolutely required for efficient launch and flight vehicles. However. except that a flight weight engine will not result. Expert machine and welding work is essential to produce a safe and useable rocket engine. this is not a severe restriction to the amateur builder. 22 .Once the wall material of an operating rocket engine begins to fail. These are advanced metals and fabrication techniques are far outside the reach of the serious amateur builder. should be fabricated from brass or stainless steel.

2 ft/sec2 orifice discharge coefficient 23 . A disadvantage of this type of injector is that extremely small holes are required for small engine flow rates and the hydraulic characteristics and equations normally used to predict injector parameters do not give good results for small orifices. The small holes are also difficult to drill. we present below the equation for the low of liquid through a simple orifice (a round drilled hole. the impingement of the liquid stream with the high velocity gas stream results in diffusion and vaporization. One of these is the impinging stream injector in which the oxidizer and fuel are injected through a number of separate holes so that the resulting streams intersect with each other.Injectors The function of the injector is to introduce the propellants into the combustion chamber in such a way that efficient combustion can occur. causing good mixing and efficient combustion. The fuel stream will impinge with the oxidizer stream and both will break up into small droplets. lb/ft3 gravitational constant. and a liquid hydrocarbon is used as the fuel. especially in soft copper. There are two types of injectors which the amateur builder can consider for small engine design. lb/sec area of orifice. for example) where w A DP r g Cd = = = = = = propellant flow rate. 32. to provide a complete picture of the equations used in rocket engine design. ft2 pressure drop across orifice. When gaseous oxygen is used as the oxidizer. lb/ft2 density of propellant. However.

The amateur need only determine the size and spray characteristics required for his engine design and the correct spray nozzle can then be purchased at a low cost. solid cone.7. Spray nozzles are especially attractive for the amateur builder since several companies manufacture them commercially for oil burners and other applications. is given by Injection pressure drops of 70 to 150 psi. or velocity of the liquid stream issuing from the orifice.5 and 0. When a liquid hydrocarbon fuel is forced through a spray nozzle (similar to those used in home oil burners) the resulting fuel droplets are easily mixed with gaseous oxygen and the resulting mixture readily vaporized and burned. are usually used in small liquid-fuel rocket engines. 24 . Figure 7 illustrates the two types of injectors. hollow cone. A second type of injector is the spray nozzle in which conical.The discharge coefficient for a well-shaped simple orifice will usually have a value between 0. The injection velocity. or other type of spray sheet can be obtained. or injection velocities of 50 to 100 ft/sec. The injection pressure drop must be high enough to eliminate combustion instability inside the combustion chamber but must not be so high that the tankage and pressurization system used to supply fuel to the engine is penalized.

Figure 7 Fuel Injectors for Amateur Rocket Engines. 25 .The use of commercial spray nozzles for amateur-built rocket engines is highly recommended.

and 5 we determine that the optimum O/F ratio is about 2.5. we divide the oxygen flow rate by the fuel flow rate and the result is 2. and concepts presented in the previous sections. as it should be. 4.5 and that the ideal specific impulse will be about 260 seconds.5. The engine is to operate at sea level using gaseous oxygen and gasoline propellants. The total propellant flow rate is given by Equation (3) Since the mixture ratio. is 2. we find from Equation (5) From Equation (6) the oxygen flow rate is As a check. 26 . tables. Step 1 From Table I and Figures 3. A small water-cooled liquid-fuel rocket engine is to be designed for a chamber pressure of 300 psi and a thrust of 20 pounds. r.EXAMPLE DESIGN CALCULATION The following example illustrates the use of the equations.

7 psi (sea level) 27 . or about 6202°R.Step 2 From Table I we note that the chamber gas temperature is 5 7 4 2 °F. From Equation (9) the gas temperature at the nozzle throat is Step 3 From Equation (12) the pressure at the nozzle throat is Step 4 The nozzle throat area is given by Equation (7) Step 5 The nozzle throat diameter is given by Equation (17) Step 6 From Table III we find that for a chamber pressure of 300 psi and a nozzle exit pressure of 14.

from Equation (15) Step 7 The nozzle exit diameter that the nozzle exit area is. 28 . or Ac. therefore Therefore. The combustion chamber volume is given by Equation (19) Step 9 The chamber length is found from Equation (21) However. We do this by assuming that the chamber diameter is five times the nozzle throat diameter or Dc = 5Dt. we must first determine the chamber area. from Equation (17) Step 8 For this propellant combination we will assume a combustion chamber L* of 60 inches.

Step 10 Copper will be used for the combustion chamber and nozzle wall. of about 3 Btu/in2-sec. The surface area is given by The area of the nozzle cone up to the throat can be assumed to be about 10% of the chamber surface area so that The total heat transferred into the coolant is given by Equation (24) 29 . The heat transfer area of the combustion chamber is the outer surface area of the chamber and nozzle. q.09375 inch and will assume that the nozzle wall has this thickness also. Step 11 Previous experience with small water-cooled rocket engines has shown that we can expect the copper combustion chamber and nozzle to experience an average heat transfer rate. The chamber wall thickness is given by Equation (23) To allow for additional stress and welding factors we shall set the wall thickness equal to 3/32 or 0.

4 lb/ft3. This velocity is obtained when the flow passage has dimensions as determined below: where vw = 30 ft/sec. ww = 0. given by where D2 is the inner diameter of the outer jacket and D1 is the outer diameter of the combustion chamber. and A is the area of the annular flow passage. r = 62.775 lb/sec. from Equation (24) Step 13 The annular flow passage between the combustion chamber wall and the outer jacket must be sized so that the flow velocity of the cooling water is at least 30 ft/sec. given by Substituting in the above equations 30 .Step 12 The cooling water flow rate can be calculated by assuming a desired temperature rise of the water. If this is 40°F then.

If an impinging jet injector had been chosen.0425 inch. so that 31 . nozzle material should be brass to ensure adequate injector heat transfer to the incoming propellant. the spray nozzle flow requirement is 0.22 gallons per minute (gpm).5 lb/ft3. The spray nozzle can now be ordered from any of several suppliers (see List of Suppliers). The density of gasoline is about 44. The required capacity of the nozzle is determined by the fuel flow rate Since there are six pounds of gasoline per gallon.The water flow gap is 0. the determination of the required injector hole number and size would have been as follows: The flow area for fuel injection is given by Equation (25) We will assume that Cd = 0.7 with a fuel injection pressure drop of 100 psi. Step 14 The fuel injector for this small rocket engine will be a commercial spray nozzle with a 75° spray angle.

The size of these orifices should be such that a gas stream velocity of about 200 ft/sec is obtained at design oxygen flow rate. The holes must not be so small that sonic velocity is achieved in the orifice passages since this would result in a high upstream pressure requirement to drive the required amount of oxygen through the orifices. If two fuel injection holes are used. The density of gaseous oxygen at 400 psi and a temperature of 68°F is given by the perfect gas law (see Table II) 32 . If we assume an injection pressure drop of 100 psi then the oxygen gas pressure at the entrance to the injection ports will be 400 psi (the chamber pressure plus the injection pressure drop). Step 15 The injection holes for the gaseous oxygen will be simple drilled orifices. If a spray nozzle fuel injector is used we will assume the use of four equally spaced oxygen injection ports parallel to the combustion chamber centerline around this nozzle. their diameter would be A number 75 drill could be used for these holes.If only one injection hole is used (a poor practice which can lead to combustion instability) its diameter would be A number 69 drill could be used for this hole.

welding. 33 . Design The foregoing design calculations provide the dimensions. thicknesses. oxygen and fuels. and orifice sizes for the major components of our rocket engine.Assuming incompressibility.004375 in2 and the diameter of each hole is A number 48 drill could be used for these holes. should be drilled at an angle of 45° with respect to the injector face with the intersection point of the streams about 1/4 inch inside the combustion chamber. The holes. These same size oxygen jets could also be used with two fuel jets in the impinging stream injector. we can easily find the total injection area Since there are to be four holes. and operational factors since these interact to determine the final configuration of the engine and its components. however. the injection flow area is given by Since we know the oxygen flow rate and the desired injection velocity. requires engineering judgment and knowledge of machining. Perhaps the best way to accomplish the final design is to sit down with appropriate drafting materials and begin to draft a cross-section view of the engine. A scale of 2/1 (or twice actual size) is about right for these small engines and will enable the designer to better visualize the entire assembly. The actual design of the rocket engine. each hole has an area of 0.

such as model steam engines. recesses. 34 . and other features prior to actual machining. etc. high speed chuck. a milling machine or planer will not be required. rocket engine.. dynamic balance of components is not required. A properly designed small liquid-fuel rocket engine requires the following machine and hand tools: 1. Mensuration equipment such as calipers.001 inch. with attachments Precision drill press hand files. 4. and the design technique described above. must be capable of inside and outside diameter measurements. calipers. micrometers.Using the dimensions obtained in the example calculation. gasoline engines. The drill press will be used to drill small diameter holes and should have a true running. 2. etc. Because the rocket engine has no rotating parts. However. the rocket engine assembly design shown in Figure 8 is obtained. the use of quality. micrometers. and should be used to locate holes. FABRICATION The fabrication and assembly of a small liquid fuel rocket engine is no more difficult than the more serious amateur machine projects. and turbines. The engine design features easy fabrication and assembly. homogeneous materials and careful fabrication technique are definitely required to produce a safe. Since a properly designed engine will have symmetrical parts. 3. lengths. The metalturning lathe should have a repeatable accuracy of 0. working. oxy-acetylene torch or small arc welder. 6” or 10” metal-turning lathe.

Figure 8 Assembly drawing of small liquid-fuel rocket engine.The joining of the various engine components is especially critical since the engine will operate at high pressure and high temperature. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) injector assembly O-ring liquid fuel gaseous oxygen engine mount (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) coolant fuel spray nozzle combustion chamber outer shell coolant 35 .

and the welding techniques employed. The shell will also contain the coolant entry and exit ports. This arrangement. which will be visible to the world. Metal joints must be clean. should be as good as those required for aircraft work. this joint would be exposed to the hot combustion gases (5700°F) on one side and would. The shell will also feature a method of attaching the injector and for mounting the engine to a test or thrust stand. As shown in Figure 8. but that is dangerous) prior to actual use with propellants. should reflect the care and concern of the machinist. The use of flare type fittings with metal tapered seats (such as those manufactured by Parker or Weatherhead) is highly recommended. As discussed previously. Typical materials for this part are stainless steel or brass. Thin wall sections are potential failure points and could result in almost immediate catastrophic failure during firing. eliminates the requirement for a joint of some kind between the two parts. assembled components should be pressure tested with water (or nitrogen gas. these ports and fittings should be constructed with some care. fail. in all probability. To the extent possible.The ability of the welder. The inside diameter of the shell should have a smooth finish to reduce cooling pressure drop. Machining of the outer shell or jacket is less critical than the combustion chamber-nozzle. these two mounting requirements can be easily combined to simplify the design. The forces to be considered when designing the shell are not the thrust forces (which are small. the combustion chamber and nozzle should be built as a one piece unit. Repair of leaks or initially poor welds must be carefully done with subsequent retesting with pressurized water (called hydro-testing or hydrostatic testing). Building the combustion chamber and nozzle in one piece eliminates this potential failure point. typically on the order of 20-30 36 . while more difficult from a machining point of view. and the outside finish of the shell. with a close fit between parts to ensure adequate weld strength and integrity. Since the coolant (typically water) will probably have an entry pressure of 60 to 100 psi. Care must be exercised during the machining of the copper chamber-nozzle to ensure constant wall thickness and the correct taper in the nozzle region.

see List of Suppliers) will give reliable service if the surrounding metal does not exceed a temperature of 200-300°F. rather. A standard neoprene O-ring (manufactured by a number of companies. 37 . depends to some extent on the adequacy of the threads in tapped holes. The force attempting to separate the injector from the shell is slightly over 600 pounds for the design shown in Figure 8 at a combustion pressure of 300 psi. Which an appropriately configured water-cooled design. The strength of these bolts. however. and the bolt tightening procedure used in assembly. Dimensions and design parameters for O-rings and O-ring grooves are given in manufacturers supply catalogs. the pressure forces attempting to separate the injector from the shell. The bolts holding the two components together (and in this case also holding the assembly to the test mount) must withstand this force with an adequate safety factor (typically a factor of two). The pressure acting on the injector area out to the point of sealing between the injector and the outer shell is the combustion chamber pressure. which is typically 100 to 300 psi.pounds) but. the tapped material. which gives the average load capacity of high strength steel bolts of various sizes. The number and size of bolts required can be obtained from Table IV. the use of an elastomeric O-ring is highly desirable. The outer shell must also contain a sealing device to prevent the high pressure combustion chamber gas from flowing back past the injector.

Oring groove dimensions are critical and should be obtained from suppliers handbooks. Figure 9 Detail on O-ring and crush gasket sealing methods. The injector should be fabricated from copper to provide maximum heat transfer from the injector face to the incoming propellants.Another method of sealing is the use of an asbestos-copper crush gasket (very similar to those used on automobile spark plugs. only larger. Figure 9 illustrates the relationship between an O-ring and a copper crush gasket and their mating surfaces. However. metal-to-metal kind) should be stainless steel for best results. stainless steel. It is usually a good idea to make the injector outer shell from stainless steel so that the inlet fittings can be attached to the remainder of the injector by silver brazing without weakening the inlet fitting welds. The outer shell of the injector can be made from either copper. since the propellant inlet fittings (again these should be the tapered seat. or brass. see List of Suppliers). if impinging jets are used) will usually be made with numbered drills of small diameter. The copper crush gasket in positioned by a V-groove cut in the surface of the outer jacket at the sealing point. The drilled hole should have an entry and exit free from burrs or chips. Crush gasket groove dimensions are noncritical. with no machine marks. The mating surface of the injector should be smooth and flat. groove depth should be about 1/3 the thickness of uncrushed gasket. Extreme care should be used in drilling these holes. especially in soft copper. Injection holes for the gaseous oxygen (and for the fuel. It is vitally 38 .

a regulated supply of high pressure gaseous oxygen. and its safe use in engine operation. The use of quality products. a regulated supply of high pressure nitrogen gas to force the fuel from the tank into the engine. The amateur builder should expect the assembly of the feed system to be an expensive project which. the installation of this equipment. After injector welding. 39 . and the assembly should receive a final rinse in acetone or alcohol. hot water should be used to thoroughly clean the injector assembly of brazing flux and residues. however. A typical pressurized feed system is shown schematically in Figure 10. Feed System Components The components of a rocket engine feed system are precision instruments designed to handle gas and/or liquids at high pressure. and a control device for regulating the propellant flow rates. TESTING EQUIPMENT In this section we shall discuss the auxiliary equipment needed to operate the rocket engine. they are usually relatively expensive. need be done only once. is mandatory for safe operation of amateur rocket engines. Feed System The feed system for amateur rocket engine testing consists of a tank to store the liquid fuel.important that injector components be thoroughly cleaned and de-burred prior to assembly. made to do the job or very carefully modified and pre-tested. While many of the components suitable for use in amateur rocket feed systems are readily available from welding or automobile parts suppliers.

When cylinders are not in use the cap should be kept on to protect the cylinder valve. Special fittings with nonstandard threads are used to prevent use of incorrect equipment with the cylinders. Although cylinders can be purchased. the best way of securing is to chain or strap the cylinders to an appropriate stand or worktable. Cylinders should be stored so they cannot fall over or inadvertently roll. Several suppliers of high pressure gases publish instruction books on the care and use of high pressure cylinders (see Bibliography). High pressure gas cylinders should never he dropped or mishandled. the amateur is encouraged to read and follow these professional instructions. they are usually rented and then returned to the supplier for recharge at a nominal fee.High Pressure Gas Cylinders Gases stored in cylinders at high pressure (usually about 1800 psi) are readily obtained from any bottled gas supplier or from many welding suppliers. 40 .

(9) drain valve. (5) gaseous oxygen cylinders. (4) fuel tank. (10) remotely operated propellant control valve. (12) purge valve. Propellants are a liquid fuel and gaseous oxygen. (11) fuel filter. (6) relief valve. Cleanliness of components is important for proper and reliable operation. Gaseous Nitrogen Nitrogen is an inert gas compatible with all normally available materials. (7) vent valve. The amateur builder will have little difficulty with materials of construction for nitrogen but must be careful that all components are suitable for high pressure service. (1) high pressure gaseous nitrogen supply. (3) check valve.Figure 10 Schematic diagram of gas pressure feed system. 41 . P is pressure gauge. (8) fill port. (2) pressure regulator. (13) rocket engine.

and similar contaminants. MUST be absolutely free from oil. or other possible ignition sources. The amateur builder should be very careful if he decides to use such a tank. valves. and additional outlets or welding to the tank wall could seriously weaken the tank. are offered to the public from war surplus outlets. the amateur builder should observe all rules of safety applying to these chemicals. 42 . regulators. including lines. They are toxic and easily ignited. When cleaning components with solvent or acetone. Cleaning should be done outside and away from buildings. These fluids should not be stored indoors but in vented lockers away from main buildings. Orders for commercial items should he marked to indicate their intended use with high pressure gaseous oxygen. In all cases the tank should be hydrostatically tested to at least 1 1/2 times desired operating pressure before use in the rocket engine feed system. The amateur should avail himself of these services whenever possible. Many commercial suppliers of valves and regulators offer a special service for cleaning their products for oxygen service. made from carbon.or stainless steel. Thorough cleaning of all items in solvent. All items. is an absolute must.Gaseous Oxygen Oxygen will not itself burn but does vigorously support the rapid combustion of almost all other materials. Tanks of various sizes and shapes. followed by a complete rinse in acetone. The amateur must be concerned not only with suitability of components for high pressure service but also must use only components that are made from oxygen compatible materials and that are cleaned for oxygen service. fires. They should not be modified since in nearly all cases they are thin wall pressure vessels made for aircraft service.. etc. grease. fittings. even though they will add slightly to the initial cost of the component. Fuel Tank The fuel tank is a closed vessel which contains the liquid fuel at moderate pressure (300-500 psi).

022 lb/sec. for this case. The size of the tank is determined by the size of the rocket engine and the desired operating time. at least 1/2 inch thick). Welding should be done by an expert with several passes for each end plate (see Figure 11). The tank wall thickness is given by Equation (22) where P is the pressure in the tank (1 1/2 times the desired operating pressure). to prevent oil and metal chips from falling into the tank. Seamless tubing or pipe (mild steel or stainless steel) with welded flat end plates makes an excellent tank. or the tank plumbing should be so arranged. 43 . and fuel outlet and drain are available.The amateur may build (or have built) a tank especially for his requirements. Outlet ports are easily tapped in the flat end plates. Drilling and tapping should be done prior to welding. that a safety relief valve (either spring loaded or a burst disc). Many of these functions can be incorporated as part of the gas inlet and fuel outlet plumbing so that only two ports. A tank with a 4inch inside diameter and 12 inches long would hold enough gasoline to run this engine for 175 seconds. The tank inside diameter is 4. End plate ports should then be re-tapped. stress concentrations. one on each end of the tank are required. The flat end plates for this tank should be at least twice the thickness of the tank wall (i. and the size of available seamless tubing.250 inch is chosen to allow for welding factors.0 inches. The fuel tank should contain enough ports. A wall thickness of 0. a tank minimum wall thickness of 0. The tank should be thoroughly cleaned and hydrostatically tested prior to use in the rocket engine feed system. the allowable stress in the steel is 20.e. If the tank outside diameter is 4.000 psi. tw is the wall thickness. D is the outside diameter of the tank. and the operating pressure is 500 psi so that the design pressure is 750 psi. gas inlet port. and S is the allowable stress. load and vent port.085 inch is calculated.5 inches. The engine discussed in Example Design Calculation had a fuel flow rate of 0.

and maintain control of. is required. the regulator. all the gas in the cylinder is not usable since some excess pressure (hence. A good quality regulator will maintain the downstream pressure quite accurately over a range of gas flow rates as long as the upstream cylinder pressure does not decrease so as to become too close to the downstream pressure. Several weld passes should be used to attach the end plates to the seamless tubing. A number of commercial firms (see List of Suppliers) market regulators for non-welding purposes that are admirably suited for fuel tank pressurization. specialized design information. wall stress is a function of diameter. The flow rate of nitrogen gas required for the fuel from the tank is relatively small and could be handled by a regular gaseous oxygen welding regulator equipped with nitrogen cylinder fittings. Thus. Gaseous Nitrogen Regulator The purpose of a regulator is to maintain a constant pressure on the downstream side of the regulator as the pressure in the gas cylinder on the upstream side decreases.Figure 11 Fuel tank end detail. gas) is required to drive the gas through. Tanks made from seamless tubing should not be greater than six inches in diameter. the force on the tank end plates increases rapidly with tank diameter. most welding regulators do not permit adjustment to the high downstream pressure required for rocket engine operation. and at high stress. 44 . However. Also. not usually available to the amateur builder.

Since these valves control the flow of propellants. These fittings are available from several sources (see List of Suppliers). if possible. Special fittings for attaching the regulator to the oxygen cylinder are available from the sources supplying nitrogen cylinder fittings. 45 . special fittings are required to attach these regulators to the gas cylinder. and leaving. These sources can also supply cylinder manifold kits so that two or more oxygen cylinders can be used simultaneously to achieve long engine run durations. they should be mounted near the tanks and engine on the test stand. Gaseous Oxygen Regulator The discussion of regulators for gaseous nitrogen service applies to gaseous oxygen also. 1/4 National Pipe Thread line size) and a 1/2-inch oxygen valve. the valves need not be this large. Regulator manufacturers should be consulted for recommendations on seat materials for use with gaseous oxygen in their regulators. The valve for gaseous oxygen should be larger than the valve for the fuel line. These valves should be stainless steel needle valves with Teflon packing or seals. except that the regulator should be especially cleaned for oxygen service and.Especially attractive is the Grove Mity-Mite regulator with internal regulation. Many manufacturers make this kind of valve (see List of Suppliers). The tubing actually entering. Engines of the size discussed in Example Design Calculation should use a 1/4-inch fuel valve (that is. metalto-metal seats should be used within the regulator. Inexpensive. and operated remotely by means of valve stem extensions (see discussion on Test Stand). but the valves themselves should be as indicated to afford a range of flow control with minimum pressure drop across the valve. Propellant Control Valves The propellant control valves allow the operator to start and then manually remote-control the flow of each propellant in to the rocket engine.

high quality ball valves are highly recommended for these functions since they offer positive shutoff. An adjustable spring-loaded relief valve is recommended because it may be set to different pressures as feed system uses change. Check Valves Check valves permit fluid flow in one direction only. and the valves may be line or panel mounted (see List of Suppliers). and because. does not have to be replaced. An alternate device is the burst disc which ruptures at a preset pressure and relieves the overpressure in the tank. Burst discs require replacement after actuation and are not pressure adjustable. They are widely used in the aircraft and hydraulic industry and are manufactured by many companies. and full line opening. it could happen if the gaseous nitrogen regulator failed to function or shut-off properly. Relief Valves The fuel tank requires a relief device of some type to prevent tank failure in the event of over-pressurization. the drain valve. l/4-inch line size is recommended for all functions shown in Figure 10 with the exception Of the gaseous oxygen line check valve which should feature metal-to-metal seats and be at least 3/8inch line size.Other Valves Other valves required in the feed system include the fuel tank vent and fill valve. Inexpensive. easy operation with handle indication of on or off. and the nitrogen purge valve. if used. Fuel Filter Fuel injection holes on small liquid-fuel rocket engines are easily plugged with contaminants from the fuel tank and control 46 . Brass or stainless steel valve bodies with Teflon seats are acceptable. Check valves should be thoroughly cleaned prior to use and tested to insure that the check is working properly. A different disc must be used for each pressure range desired. While this is high unlikely.

and combustion chamber pressure should be at least 3 1/2 inch diameter for easy reading. low cost. Plumbing Plumbing refers to the flow tubes and fittings used to connect the components discussed previously. and availability for this requirement. Gauges for fuel. ruggedness. Small (2 1/2 or 3-inch diameter) high pressure gauges similar to those used on oxygen welding regulators should be used by the amateur builder for measuring pressure in the high pressure gas cylinders or manifolds. Several concerns make small filters suitable for rocket engine feed systems (see List of Suppliers).system. These gauges are easily panel mounted and make a neat test stand installation. sizes. These 3 1/2 Acaloy gauges of Helicoid (see List of Suppliers) are recommended because of their reliability and low cost. and prices. water. from a distance. and combustion chamber pressure are essential measurements for rocket engine operation. Bronze Bourdon tubes are recommended since they are fully compatible (when cleaned) with gaseous oxygen or hydrocarbon fuel and are so widely used that significant cost savings are possible. Flare fittings with metal to metal seats are also recommended for joining the tubing to other components. These gauges can be obtained from a welding supply shop. oxygen. A fuel filter which can filter out particles down to ten microns in size is highly recommended and will save the amateur builder much grief when actual testing is started. 1/4-inch diameter stainless steel tubing for the fuel and nitrogen systems and 3/8 inch diameter stainless tubing for the oxygen line are recommended. Pressure Gauges Fuel. Buordon-tube pressure gauges offer accuracy. 1/4 and 3/8 inch diameter copper tubing can also be used for the 47 . water. oxygen. Numerous manufacturers make these gauges in a bewildering variety of styles.

and the oxygen and nitrogen cylinders with regulators and associated plumbing. with a shrapnel barricade between. The compressed gas cylinders 48 . should be physically separated from the test stand proper by at least 20 feet. No other pipe thread compound should be used. in the event of an ignition failure. and a mirror system so that the operator does not directly view the operating rocket engine. valve. Therefore. a mounting for the propellant flow control needle valves. The greatest hazard in testing small rocket engines is from shrapnel in the event of engine explosion or disintegration. The operator's station. This is the safest orientation for a liquid-fuel rocket engine since excess fuel. TEST STAND The amateur rocket engine test stand is a structure which incorporates a method for firmly mounting the rocket engine (preferably in a nozzle-down attitude). the ignition system battery and associated switches. Where the fittings screw into fuel tank. simply drains out of the engine nozzle. oxygen. and nitrogen supply system but is not as desirable as stainless steel and is more easily flared. or other components having pipe threads. Figure 12 shows schematically the proper arrangement of components for a safe rocket engine test stand. The engine is mounted high enough from the ground so that no flame chute or other complicated exhaust deflector or fixture is required. The engine is firmly attached to a section of steel channel in the nozzle down position.fuel. The rocket engine is separated from the propellant flow control valves by a 1/8-inch thick steel barricade. especially on gaseous oxygen components. the fuel tank and associated plumbing. the test stand proper should be suitably barricaded to reduce shrapnel effect in all directions. which is really a part of the test stand. The amateur builder should use only good flaring tools and should form or bend tubing only with a tube bender. The operator's station should contain the control valve extensions. the use of Teflon tape on the threads is recommended.

(one nitrogen and two oxygen) are mounted at the rear of the test stand and are separated from the control valves compartment by another barricade made from one-inch thick plywood. The nitrogen and oxygen regulators are mounted on this plywood barricade above the cylinders. In this manner, expended cylinders may he replaced with charged cylinders without disturbing the regulators or plumbing. A formed piece of stainless steel tubing between the oxygen manifold and the oxygen regulator and a similar piece of tubing between the nitrogen cylinder and its regulator are removed during cylinder exchange, and then reconnected. Lines should always be capped when not in use to prevent entry of dirt and other foreign objects. The fuel tank is mounted between the forward steel barricade and the rear plywood barricade on a metal cross-piece attached to both barricades. The tank is mounted in the vertical position with the liquid outlet at the bottom. The propellant flow control valves are mounted one atop the other in a metal bracket which is attached to the forward steel barricade. Panel mounted needle valves are recommended since they facilitate mounting in the manner described, and do not place mounting or operating stresses on the propellant flow tubing. Valve stem extensions, made from 1/4-inch pipe permit operation of the control valves from the operator's remote control station, which is located at least twenty feet from the test stand proper. Pressure gauges for fuel tank pressure, oxygen line pressure, cooling water exit pressure and combustion chamber pressure are mounted in a panel which is attached to the forward and rear barricades and which faces the operator's remote station.


Figure 12

Test stand for a small liquid-fuel rocket engine.

Cooling water for the rocket engine is brought into a hose coupling attached to the stand, with semi-permanent plumbing between the coupling and the rocket engine. Water flowing from the cooling jacket should be directed away from the engine or can be directed downward onto a 3-inch deep layer of coarse stones laid beneath the rocket engine exhaust. These stones will prevent the engine exhaust from picking up dirt and dust; the water will cool the stones and extend their useful life. The jet of


cooling water can be observed by the operator as an indication that cooling water is actually flowing through the engine. The test stand proper should have a framework made from welded or bolted steel angle. The forward steel and rear plywood barricade are bolted to this angle framework providing rigidity and strength. Thee test stand should be firmly attached to the surface of the test area either by bolting to a concrete pad or by weighing down with sand bags or concrete weights.

Because of the physical hazards involved in handling propellants and controlling high pressure combustion proeesses, certain elementary safety precautions must be observed in static testing of rocket engines. During the design, and later, the operation of amateur liquid rocket engines, the following general safety precautions shou1d be observed: 1. The operator should be protected by a suitable barricade located some distance (at least 20 feet) from the test unit. Control of valves during engine ignition and steadystate operation should be by remote means, which for amateur units is best achieved by manual control of needle valves via valve stem extensions. A large chemical fire extinguisher (or, at least, a plentiful supply of water) should always be on hand. The operator should not view the test unit directly, but should use a mirror arrangement (somewhat like a periscope) or use a thick layer of reinforced safety glass attached to the operator's barricade. REMEMBER, the primary danger is from shrapnel in the event of engine explosion.


3. 4.


pressure gauges. 8. No smoking is ever permitted anywhere near a test area when propellants are also present. Remember vapors from hydrocarbon fuels (such as gasoline) can travel long distances from the test area and can be ignited at a remote point traveling back to the test stand. Remember that most fuels are toxic. 10.5. 6. 7. Warning signals should be given prior to tests (or whenever gas cylinder valves are open) to notify personnel that the area is hazardous. face shields. or rubber aprons. 52 . do not breathe fuel vapors for even a short time. but should be on the test stand and remotely read. Personnel should be permitted to work in the test area only if fuel and oxidizer are separated and not pressurized. This rule does not apply to electrical instrumentation wherein a transducer is located on the test stand and an electrical readout (such as a meter) is located at the operator's station (this type of instrumentation is very expensive and is beyond the reach of most amateurs). Personnel handling propellants should wear safety equipment such as gloves. Valves. The test stand unit should be barricaded on several sides to reduce shrapnel effect in event of explosion. 11. and other components which directly sense fluid properties should not be located in the operator's station. 9. A test must NEVER be conducted until the operator has assured himself that all personnel are behind safety barricades or otherwise protected. Separating of fuel and oxidizer storage reduces the fire and explosion hazard and limits the amount of propellant stowed in any one area.

Water pressure can be measured either at the entrance or exit of the cooling jacket. water flowing through the engine over a timed period. Attach a flexible hose (garden variety will do) to the outlet of the cooling jacket and start water flowing through the jacket at the desired pressure. allowing water to fill the jacket. several checkout tests and flow calibrations should be made prior to testing with live propellants.12. Use a filter in the water line to avoid plugging the small fuel injection holes. Once steady flow has been achieved quickly move the hose outlet into the catch container 53 . A similar pressure check should be performed on the fuel manifold of the injector. There should be no leaks. perform this test by flowing water through the injector. Flow Calibration The water flow rate through the engine cooling jacket should be determined for various inlet pressures. Observe the jacket and engine for leaks. There should be no leaks. Attach a pressure gauge to the outlet port of the jacket and open the water valve. in a container. pressure should be 50-100 psi with no flow). Use a bathroom or other available scale to weigh. Since the injector face is not easily blanked off. Leak Testing Connect the engine cooling jacket to a readily available source of pressurized water (such as lawn or house supply. Use a pressure gauge attached to the water line as near to the injector fuel entry port as possible. ENGINE CHECK-OUT and CALIBRATION After the rocket engine has been fabricated. A check-off list is helpful when conducting a rocket engine firing and should be made up of both technical events and safety items to be completed prior to the firing.

so that a water calibration is not directly comparable to what will occur when fuel is used.for a period of 30 seconds. Test Stand Checkout After the test stand and operator's area are completed and components installed. Fill the tank with clean water. the pressure drop required to flow a given quantity of water will provide some indication of how closely design objectives were achieved. can be performed in a manner similar to the cooling system calibration. check the size of tubing or hose used between the water source and the engine. Use a stop or sweep second watch for the timing and be accurate! Obtain the net weight of collected water by subtracting from the weight of the filled container its empty weight. A soap 54 . However. This operation should be repeated several times at different pressures to obtain the flow characteristics of the coolant jacket. If these tests show that greater pressure is required to achieve the desired flow rate. Another solution is to disassemble the engine and re-bore the outer shell to open up the water flow passage. then quickly remove the hose from the container. The flow characteristics of water and the hydrocarbon fuels are different. tests should the conducted to determine that no gas or liquid leaks will occur when actual propellants are used. Cap off the fuel and oxygen lines where they would normally attach to the engine. Material should NOT be removed from the combustion chamber/nozzle. Pressurize the system to 100 psi and check for leaks. Flow rate tests of the injector. although their worth is questionable. using water. it may be restricting the water flow rate. Check also the size of the flexible duct hose used. Under extreme conditions. a different source of cooling water may be required. an air-pressurized water tank or a motor-driven pump may be required. Divide the net weight by the time during which water was collected and the result will be water flow rate in lb/sec. If insufficient water pressure is available to achieve the design water flow rate. This test should be conducted in the same manner as the cooling water calibration test except that the flow time should he long enough to accumulate at least ten pounds of water.

Propellant timing is extremely important in a bi-propellant liquid rocket engine. Even if it were. Depressurize the system and refill the fuel tank with clean water. Hot-source ignition works as follows: two lengths of insulated #16 or #18 solid wire are taped together and their exposed ends are bent to form a spark gap of about 3/32-inch. and drastically reduces hard starts. empty the fuel tank of water and dry by flushing with nitrogen gas for several seconds.solution can be used to check around all fittings and seals. A small amount of cotton is wrapped around. Pressurize the stand in the normal manner and practice the ignition and operating sequence using water as fuel (gaseous oxygen can safely he used in these tests. If no leaks are present. The propellants used in amateur rocket engines require a separate source for ignition. or attached to. Continue this procedure until the test stand operating pressure is reached and no leaks are present. An excess of either propellant (if both are liquid) in the combustion chamber can lead to severe over-pressure upon ignition (known as "hard" start) and possible fracture of the combustion chamber. Attach the rocket engine to its test mount and connect all tubing. if desired). increase the pressure to 200 psi and repeat the detection procedure. If no leaks develop. the use of an engine-mounted spark plug is not generally feasible. IGNITION and OPERATION Discussion of propellant ignition has been reserved until this point since it is really a test stand function and is required only for actual operation of the engine. The engine and test stand are now ready for their first hot firing. Hundreds of tests with small liquid-fuel rocket engines employing gaseous oxygen as the oxidizer have indicated that hot-source ignition provides excellent propellant ignition characteristics. The amateur engine using gaseous oxygen is not nearly as sensitive to hard starts as if the oxidizer were a liquid. the ignition of incoming propellants in the combustion chamber by a small spark plug is dangerous and unreliable. thc wires very near the spark 55 . Soap bubbles indicate the presence of a gas leak. Because the engines are small.

The ignition procedure. 3. 56 . The operator ascertains that the area is clear and ready for firing. The operator checks operation of the spark coil and then disconnects the coil from the battery for safety. This ignition assembly is pushed through the nozzle into the combustion chamber of the rocket engine so that the spark gap is in the lower end of the combustion chamber but not blocking the nozzle throat. Ignitor is consumed during each use and must be replaced. after the test stand is prepared for firing is: Figure 13 Hot-source igniter for small liquid fuel rocket engines using gaseous oxygen oxidizer. The wires outside the engine are bent or taped to hold the ignition assembly in position during the ignition but not obstructing it. The ignitor cotton is soaked in gasoline or kerosene. The free ends of the two wires are attached to the spark source (a Ford Model-T spark coil is ideal for this purpose). The battery should be at the operator's remote station. Figure 13 details this hotsource igniter. 2. 1.

The oxygen and fuel flow rates should now be rapidly and simultaneously increased by opening the control needle valves until tie combustion chamber pressure gauge indicates that desired conditions Exist inside the chamber. 5. 12. 11. The spark coil is reconnected to its battery. if the exhaust is transparent or bluish the 57 6. the fuel tank is pressurized. The spark coil is energized. 9. The ignitor is pushed through the nozzle into the combustion chamber and secured. The firing bell or horn is sounded.4. 7. A flame should immediately appear at the nozzle exit and a low whistling sound should be heard. The operator will need to judge whether more or less oxygen is required for desired O/F ratio operation. The operator may have difficulty ascertaining that the cotton is actually burning although small flaming bits of material may be ejected from the nozzle. and all gas pressures adjusted to operating values. (this is an indication of unburned carbon in the exhaust). 10. More oxygen is required if the exhaust is bright yellow or smoky. Cooling water is allowed to flow through the engine at the proper rate. The oxygen flow needle valve is opened very slightly to allow a very small flow of gaseous oxygen to pass over the ignitor and out the combustion chamber. . The fuel control needle valve is now opened very slightly to allow fuel to flow into the combustion chamber. 8. Inside the combustion chamber the cotton igitor should immediately burst into flame in the oxygen atmosphere. Gas cylinder valves are opened.

followed by opening of the nitrogen purge valve. If the engine is to be stopped prior to fuel depletion the fuel flow control valve should be quickly turned off. above. Water should be allowed to flow through the engine cooling jacket for several minutes after run termination. After the engine has stopped operation (thus assuring that the nitrogen purge has forced all fuel from the engine) the gaseous oxygen valve may be turned off. also immediately shut-off the flow of gaseous oxygen (metal will burn vigorously in an oxygen environment). Always shutoff the liquid fuel first. should be followed. The correct mixture ratio is achieved when the exhaust gases are transparent (or nearly so) but the supersonic standing shocks (Mach diamonds) in the exhaust are clearly seen. The engine will abruptly stop operation and the operator can then turn off the flow of gaseous oxygen. It may be necessary to wear ear protection because of this high noise level. The gaseous nitrogen pressurizing the fuel tank then purges the fuel supply system automatically. 13. 15. It is quite safe to simply let the engine run out of liquid fuel. but it is a good indicator of engine operation. the shutdown sequence detailed in (14). Both of these effects will affect the combustion chamber pressure. and the fuel tank vent valve opened. In the event of engine failure. The operator should have a timer or have someone time the engine run. The oxygen line is vented by briefly opening the oxygen flow need1e valve. the cylinder valves are closed. If engine metal parts are burning. The noise from the engine will he quite high.oxygen flow should he decreased slightly. The nitrogen purge valve is closed. 58 . 14. Remember that as you vary the fuel and oxidizer flows you are changing not only the amount of material passing through the engine but are also affecting the temperature of the burning gases.

Some engine designs may exhibit combustion instability (chugging. the amateur should always keep safety and safe operating procedures foremost in mind. apparent overheating or hot spots prior to another firing. Ignition and operation of small liquid-fuel rocket engines in the manner described offers the amateur a relatively safe and interesting activity. determining the heat transfer to the cooling water. Photography of this exhaust is a definite challenge. To avoid this problem. the operator should rapidly increase the chamber pressure after initial introduction of the liquid fuel. 17. chuffing. 18. As these additional features are added to the experimental set-up. The ignitor assembly is partially consumed during the ignition process and residue is quickly blown from the combustion chamber upon ignition of the liquid fuel. 59 . The operator will quickly discover and use many procedures to improve engine and test stand operation.16. the amateur can begin to consider methods of measuring engine thrust.) at low chamber pressures or low fuel injection velocities. After achieving initial operation of the engine and test stand. etc. Always inspect the engine and other components for damage. erratic combustion. and noting the characteristics of the rocket engine exhaust. A new ignitor will be required for each ignition attempt or firing.

is an extremely noisy device. in the United States. If ordinances prohibit local testing. 60 . the amateur should consider the effect of engine operation on his neighbors before the initial firing. If local ordinances permit testing in a populated area. rocket vehicles or accessories. this technique restricts viewing of the rocket exhaust plume and eliminates one of the unique features of rocket engine operation. a remote site may be needed.THE LAW There are no known laws prohibiting the design or construction of rocket engines. However. However. certain communities do have laws prohibiting the operation of rocket motors or engines or the free flight of rocket powered vehicles. Prior to actually firing a rocket engine the amateur builder should make certain that he is not violating established ordinances. The noise of a rocket engine comes from the shearing action between the high velocity exhaust jet and the surrounding atmosphere. even a small one. Some of the noise can be eliminated by firing the engine into a water-cooled duct. Ample quantities of water must be sprayed into the exhaust duct to rapidly cool the rocket exhaust stream and to protect the duct itself. The amateur builder should keep in mind that a rocket engine.

Shepherd. by J. Elsevier Publishing Company. by M. Inc. Rocket Propulsion Elements. New York. Elsevier Publishing Co. or design. H.BIBLIOGRAPHY The reader is urged to consult any of the following books for further information relating to rocket engines. Rocket Encyclopedia Illustrated.. Design of Liquid. Inc. Heat Transmission. Streeter. Barrere and others. 1959. 1972. New York.. Inc. 335 Vanderbilt Avenue. Aero Publishers. Van Wylen. John Wiley & Sons. McGraw Hill Book Company. Solid.. 1964. Los Angeles 26. by W. Sutton. L. NY. 61 . materials. Foa. by George P. latest edition. Rocket Propulsion.. V.. Thermodynamics. Inc.. New York. Peters. Elements of Flight Propulsion. Inc. New York. and Hybrid Rockets. by Victor L. 1960. John Wiley & Sons. New York 1959.. Aerospace Propulsion. New York. 1965. by Gordon J. Inc. John Wiley & Sons. by R. Hayden Book Co.. Inc. New York. California. by Dennis G. Netherlands 1960. Fluid Mechanics. McAdams. 1966. ISBN 71-190302. McGraw-Hill Book Company.

by Laurson & Cox. 62 . Pa. Stainless Steel Handbook. 1966. Inc.. 1959. Pittsburgh 22.. 1955.. Englewood Cliffs.O. Pittsburgh. published by Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corp. 1955. P. published by Matheson. Matheson Compressed Gas Data Book.Design of Machine Elements. Prentice-Hall. Inc.. published by Aluminum Company of America.J. Box 85 East Rutherford N.. F. John Wiley & Sons. Alcoa Aluminum Handbooks published by Aluminum Company of America. Mechanics of Materials. New York. Pittsburgh. Spotts.J. Alcoa Handbook of Design Stresses for Aluminum. 1959. by M. N.

harrisweldingsupplies. Ohio 44102 http://www. 6 529 Hollis Street Oakland. ask for a current price list and the name of the nearest supplier.hoke. have their company’s web site listed under their mailing address information. who are still around and now have a web site.asp?div=vec The Harris Calorific 63 . 5501 Cass Avenue Cleveland. New Jersey 07626 http://www. California 94608 Regulators Grove Valve and Regulator Co. 840-854 Folsom Street San Francisco.LIST of SUPPLIERS The following list of suppliers is not complete since there are literally hundreds of companies in the United States manufacturing items of interest and use to the amateur rocket engine Hoke Incorporated 10 Tenakill Park Victor Equipment Co. Illustrated catalogs can be obtained by writing the companies listed below.thermadyne. The reader is urged to consult his nearest city's telephone book Yellow Pages. California 94107 http://www. Note: Those suppliers listed in the original text.

New Jersey 07626 http://www. 3817 Santa Fe Avenue Vernon. Excelsior Drive & Carmenita P.dragonvalves. California 91107 Hoke Incorporated 10 Tenakill Park Cresskill. Inc. 15655 Brookpark Road Cleveland Ohio 44142 Robbins Aviation. East Foothill Blvd. & Craig Street Republic Manufacturing. Co.hoke. California 90058 Circle Seal Products 64 . New Jersey 07626 http://www. 80x 489 Ball Valves Hoke Incorporated 10 Tenakill Park Cresskill.hoke. O. California 90650 Valves Dragon Engineering Co. lnc..

Massachusetts 01605 65 .circle-seal. 7 Lawrence Street Bloomfield. 15655 Brookpark Road Cleveland.Jamesbury. East Foothill Blvd.. New Jersey 07003 http://www.Jamesbury Corporation 669 Lincoln Street Worcester. & Craig Street Pasadena.hydromatics. California 91107 http://www. New Jersey 07626 http://www. 15655 Brookpark Road Cleveland Ohio 44142 Check Valves Circle Seal Products Co. Ohio 44142 Hoke Incorporated 10 Tenakill Park Cresskill. Republic Manufacturing Republic Manufacturing Hydromatics. Inc.

com/ Relief Valves Circle Seal Products Co. New Jersey 07065 http://www. Hoke Incorporated 10 Tenakill Park Cresskill. New Jersey 07626 http://www. 1000 New Brunswick Avenue 66 . East Foothill Blvd & Craig Street Pasadena. Inc. California 92803 http://www.hoke. Hoke Incorporated 10 Tenakill Park Cresskill. California 91107 Purolator Products. Box 3666 Anaheim.hoke. P. New Jersey 07626 Microporous Filter Division Circle Seal Development Corp.

com/ O-Rings Parker Seal Co. Connecticut 06470 Heise Bourdon Tube Co.marshbellofram.. Culver City.heise.Pressure Gauges Helicoid Gage Division American Chain & Cable Co. Minnesota 55416 67 . Sellersville. Inc.parker. Illinois 60076 http://www. 1 Brook Road Newtown. 3628 Wooddale Avenue Minneapolis. Connecticut 06602 United States Gauge Division American Machine & Metals. Connecticut Avenue & Hewitt Street Bridgeport. California 90230 http://www. 10567 Jefferson Blvd. Inc. Pennsylvania 18960 Marsh Instrument Co. 3501 Howard Street Minnesota Rubber Co.mnrubber. Tube Fittings Parker Tube Fittings Division Parker-Hannifin Corp. Ohio 44108 68 . 319 West 17th Street Imperial-Eastman Corp.. Inc.Crush Gaskets Gasket Manufacturing Co. Illinois 60648 Featherhead Co. Iowa 50265 Spraying Systems Co. Ohio 44112 http://www. 320 East 131st Street Cleveland. Illinois 60104 http://www. 6300 West Howard Street Chicago. Grand Avenue & 4th Street West Des Moines. 3265 Randolph Street Bellwood. 17327 Euclid Avenue Cleveland. O. California 90015 Spray Nozzle Delaval Manufacturing Co. Box 15438 Los Angeles.

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78) Temp (degF + 460) Temp (degF .8 1 5/9 To Obtain Horsepower Watts Cubic inches Gallons Inches Cubic feet Cubic inches Pounds water Feet Feet/sec Seconds Ounces Gallons Square inches Temp (deg F) Abs.57 1728 7.CONVERSION FACTORS Multiply Btu/minute Btu/minute Cubic feet Cubic feet Feet Gallons Gallons Gallons water Miles Miles/hour Minute Pounds Pounds water Square feet Temp (degC + 17.467 60 16 0. Temp (deg R) Temp (deg C) 70 .3453 5280 1.1337 231 8.1198 144 1.32) by 0.02356 17.48052 12 0.

org/forums/ 71 .rocketry. Linux/UNIX.rocketry. high power rocketry (large solids and hybrids) Chat and discussion forums for experimental Rocketry related software programs for MS To find clubs and organizations that Many more current. experimental rocketry and related texts and books are available online: http://www. For many more equipment suppliers: http://www. test and launch experimental rockets near you: http://www.rocketry. and still in print. Macintosh Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding experimental rocketry terminology and other helpful information: http://www. They should provide you with more up-to-date information and resources online. Mac OS X. and Palm PDAs: http://www. MS Windows.ADDITIONAL ONLINE RESOURCES Note: Since this book originally came out in 1967 the following resources are listed for your convenience.rocketry. and model rocketry: http://www.rocketry.